Hot Milk is the story of Sofia and her mother, Rose. Rose has a condition which may or may not be psychosomatic and is unable to walk (except when she isn’t). Sofia, with her hard-to-pronounce Greek name and her absent Greek father, her high level of education and low level of employability, has walked away from her own life to do the co-dependant’s dance around her mother. But her own behaviour is less than predictable.
There are so many things to love about Hot Milk. First, the setting. I spent some time in Almeria and the story perfectly captures the strange, remote quality of the place, the extreme landscape and the unlikeliness of a resort in such a harsh climate, the international cocktail of outsiders who wash up there, who are so different but just in being there, become somehow the same.
Like the shimmering heat of Almeria, there is a languid surface to the story which belies the simmering of ideas and themes. This is a story about individuals, about mother and daughter, about the spiky Sofia who will neither conform nor rebel but is always disrupting her own dreams. It is also about the unravelling of Europe. It deconstructs what we are sure about, shows us that the world we think is fixed is in flux. Spain and Greece, once at the heart of Mediterranean civilisations, are now on the periphery. It poses playful questions about the body politic and the willingness or otherwise to take your medicine.
This is a clever book, cool, ironic, provocative (and the narrator of the audiobook captures this tone perfectly). Whenever I think about it, I see something new.